Chapter One: Grace and Devotion to Mary
Chapter Two: Mary, Holy Objects and God
Chapter Three: Primary Teachings - Mary the Virgin
Chapter Four: Mary and Jesus
Chapter Five: Deeper Teachings -
Chapter Six: Teachings Not Yet Declared Dogmas -
Jesus and Mary
A Mediator with our Mediator
Chapter Seven: Final Thoughts and Reflections
of the Holy Spirit
of Jesus Made Present
and Church Unity
Consecration to Mary Individual and
Litany of Mary's Faith Journey
© Copyright, J. Roy MacIntyre 2009
For those who question that apparitions really happen let me take a little time to discuss the issue now. I have mentioned apparitions in several instances above but I would like to take a chronological journey of apparitions from the Old through the New Testament and up to our present age. Before doing this let me make some distinction between visions and apparitions.
The words vision and apparition are often used interchangeably. I donít contest this usage in writing about such events. However, I believe it is helpful to make a distinction between two types of spiritual visual phenomena. Apparitions are often called vision but visions are seldom called apparitions.
Visions are fairly common among those who pray and seek Godís guidance and direction. God can show us in a mental picture something He wants for us, something He is doing or something that is to come. For instance, in 1981 at prayer in Rome a nun, Sister Breige McKenna, had a vision for a parish in Bosnia in which she saw great crowds and the priest who was being prayed for sitting on a throne from under which flowed streams of water. This vision was fulfilled when six children reported the appearance of the Virgin Mary 1Ĺ months later. The priest was administrator of the parish for a period when the pastor was arrested. This vision was an encouragement to the priest but more significantly it showed what God was planning. Great graces have been flowing from this parish to great crowds of people ever since. In deed the graces have flowed from this small parish throughout the entire world. So, this vision of Sister Briege was fulfilled Ė a confirmation that it came from God.
Visions can also be the result of Godís acting on the imagination projected into the world around the person. For instance, a person could say she or he could see the Lord going from person to person in a prayer meeting touching each in a particular way. Confirmation of such visions are in the reports of the people who acknowledge for instance the same sense of Jesus touching them during this particular point in the prayer meeting. This is clearly an example of a vision.
Apparitions, on the other hand, are not phenomena that originate within the person. They come directly from God but may vary according to the spiritual state of the individual. Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus but Jesus also revealed His own eternal glory to His three disciples in this event (Mt 17: 1-8; Mk 9: 2-8; Lk 9: 28-36). This apparition on Mount Tabor impressed His disciples. Peter probably thought that with Moses and Elijah Jesus would begin to establish an earthly kingdom. However, immediately after this apparition Jesus warns Peter, James and John not to tell anyone about the apparition until after He rises from the dead. He was preparing them to learn that the real mission of the Messiah was to die for the people (Jn 11: 50).
When Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus He revealed Himself in the form of light and in audible words in Hebrew (Acts 9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:9-23). Interestingly, in the last cited scripture Jesus promised Paul that He would appear to him again at other times.
This apparition of Jesus to Saul was witnessed by those with him in different ways. The apparition of Moses and Elijah with Jesus was witnessed by Peter, James and John. This is another distinguishing characteristic of apparition that they can be witnessed by several people. This is because unlike visions they are events that happen outside the individual and are given directly by God.
Sometimes apparitions can be confusing. When St. Peter was in jail an Angel appeared to him and led him out to freedom. However, Peter did not realize it was really happening until he was out of the prison. He thought it was a vision. This clearly shows the difference between an apparition and a vision an apparition is an event that is really happening (Acts 12: 9).
The approved apparitions of Mary at Fatima also show that even apparitions can vary according to the individual. There were three children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima. One of the three, Francesco was never able to see the Virgin clearly and had to pray just to see an indistinct image in light and to be able to hear the words.
The first apparitions in the Bible take place in Genesis. There is the apparition of God to Adam and Eve where he walked in the garden in the cool of the evening and they tried to hide from him (Gen 3:8). There was also the evil apparition of Satan in the form of a serpent who tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God (Gen 3: 1-7). This same Satan appeared to Jesus in the desert after His baptism (Mt 4: 1-11). After sending Satan away Jesus was ministered to by holy Angels who appeared to Him.
The Lord appeared to Abram in Genesis 17 and changed his name to Abraham promising to make him a father of many nations. Later in Chapter 18 of Genesis the Lord appeared again to Abraham and this time promised him a son in his old age. In this event the Lord appeared as three men and is difficult to understand but it certainly plants the seed of God being a Trinity of persons. The scenario inspired Andrei Rublevís icon of the Trinity (circa 1400 AD).
Jacob had a wrestling match with God (Gen 32: 23-34). This also seems an unusual apparition. Referring to his success against God the passages states to Jacob; because he had Ďstriven with God and with men and have prevailedí he was given a new name and the blessing that went with it.
Moses also had the angel of the Lord appear to him in a burning bush (Ex 3:2). Then in verse 4, the Lord, God called to him from this burning bush. In this apparition God revealed to Moses how He planned to use Moses to deliver His people. There were other apparitions of God to Moses throughout the book of Exodus such as when he revealed the Ten Commandments to him in Chapter 20. Godís glory appears for all to see in the cloud that covered the tent of meeting in Exodus 40 and this has significance in terms of the Holy Spirit as at Pentecost.
Angels or messengers of God appear many times in the Old and a few times in the New Testaments. There was even some expectation of entertaining Angels unaware by treating strangers with charity (Heb 13:2). Gabriel appeared to Daniel as he did to Mary. Michael the Archangel is noted as a chief of Godís army.
There are also dark angels that appear as Angels of light (2Cor 11:14). Some people began a religion on the basis of a message of an angel. However, all those who deny the Trinity and that Jesus is Lord, God are deceivers. Therefore we must test apparitions and visions to see if they are really from God. We should also look at the fruits of those who claim direction from angels and the outcome of any messages.
I should note here that seeing is not always believing. Some of the Hebrew people refused to continue to believe in the interventions of God that delivered them from slavery in Egypt and turned to an idol. Probably the most stupendous miracle performed by God since the parting of the Red Sea was the miracle at Fatima where 70,000 people witness an unexplained solar phenomenon. Nevertheless, even in the face of this extraordinary event that affirmed the faith of most and converted some there was a few who refused to believe.
I believe God intends to do even more miraculous signs in the heavens and on the earth to attest to the truth of his Church and to confirm the messages and role of Mary in his plan of redemption for the human race. Nevertheless, even with permanent signs that remain after miracles there will be some who will not believe and who will try to explain such phenomena away. God always requires our faith, which means we are always susceptible to doubt. We should recall that even some of Jesusí own apostles doubted (Mt 28:17) after the resurrection.
Why do some believe and others doubt even in the face of Divine intervention? One reason is that only by being open and docile to the Holy Spirit can one receive from Him. On the other hand, the person who has a heart hardened against the promptings of the Holy Spirit can not receive from him. In the extreme case of complete hardness of heart one would be guilty of an eternal, unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit. If one will not allow himself to be touched by the Spirit he cannot be forgiven since only the Spirit can convict us of sin and lead us to repentance.
So, we can see from this brief survey of apparitions in the Bible and subsequently that they are relative common ways for God to give his messages at appropriate times in His plan of redemption. Often apparitions are sent to cause a course correction either when people are going astray from the truth or falling into immorality. Apparitions can also forewarn of disaster, war, political upheavals, plagues and so forth. In every case if people repented as they did at Nineveh the disaster would be averted. Our good God does not let his children go headlong into self-destruction but provides a way to save them. He sends angels, saints and over the last two hundred years he has consistently sent His mother in apparitions to help get us back on track in living the Gospel in our daily lives and to pray for the conversion of sinners.
Mary being the spouse of the Holy Spirit is the ideal one to come to us to warn us to repent and to believe the truth. Mary continues to bring with her the Holy Spirit to the people of God. Mary in her earthly life was the spouse of the Holy Spirit and lived bringing Him to those around her. She continues to be his hands, feet and voice in our world. With these thoughts about Mary being the spouse of the Holy Spirit let us now turn to one of the blessings arising from this relationship and Godís choice in general Maryís resurrection.